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Anthony's Trip Diary

A old stone bridge in Pommard                                            Click to enlarge.
Another visit to Burgundy and on this occasion it is suddenly Spring again. It seems no time since the biting cold and hard frosts of our last trip down for the Fete St Vincent, yet here we are in what would pass for mid-summer in England. At this time of year however, there is still every chance of a cloudy day and a sharp drop in temperature and we had a bit of both.

The undoubted highlight of our three days occurred in Aloxe Corton when, on a fairly chilly Thursday, we were sitting in Domaine Comte Senard's tasting room, adjoining the Table d'Hote. Philippe Senard had been joined by his daughter and was discussing a number of his wines with us and several other visitors when a figure came to the door and asked in impeccable English whether "anyone in this room owns the car that was parked outside in the Domaine gateway?" Several of those around the table spoke excellent English and one of them had indeed parked her car in the entrance. As she stood up our unexpected visitor said "Your car has hit my car". "I did not hit your car, mine was parked" came the somewhat vexed reply as the pair of them headed down the driveway.

The entrance to LeJeune's cellar.                                       Click to enlarge. A flurry of activity followed, during which it emerged that each of these comments had been correct, but the devil lay in the detail. Madame's car had indeed been parked yet it had indeed hit Mr English's car and quite hard too! On getting out of her car Madame had failed to put on the handbrake. In due course, gravity took command of the situation and her car moved off, gradually gathering momentum in a curved arc caused by her steering-wheel lock, until it rammed Mr English's stationary hire car. When this news got back to the tasting room there was much comment about the phlegmatic English and how, had that happened to a Frenchman, the whole of Aloxe would have been woken from its afternoon siesta by the shouting. The French were amazed that Mr English was not angry and it took the two Englishmen present (Graeme and myself) to explain that we had seen he was angry, he simply did not show it in a Gallic fashion. This bemused the French who enjoy a bit of volatility, so the subject was dropped in favour of another French passion, La Cuisine and we got up to move over to our shared dining room table. Here the conversation returned to another matter vital to Burgundinians, viticulture and our discussions were ably assisted by an enjoyable lunch and a lovely selection of wines.

Pruning & Burning Vines in Pommard.                                      Click to enlarge. At this time of year the vineyards are beginning to come alive. It is too early for the vines to start growing but vignerons are out finishing off any work left over from the winter and preparing the vines for the Spring. We saw much of this while we were in Pommard where some delayed pruning was being completed and the mobile braziers were again in action. As well as this there is all the other tidying up to be done, such as the grubbing up of old vines and replanting, tightening the wire stays that run along the rows and support the growing vines during the summer and general weeding and cultivation between the rows. Unfortunately our visit did not coincide with the Saturday market in the main square in Beaune. This is a bustling affair with quantities of fresh local produce and many people still buy much of their food direct from the producer at these local markets.

Place du Monument & Chais Leflaive                                       Click to enlarge. Our stay concluded in Puligny Montrachet with a visit to Olivier Leflaive Freres. Their hotel is now fully open and the Table d'Hote with its lovely array of wines to try is about to become a full restaurant for both lunch and dinner. Pascale was on fine form and the meal was as enjoyable as ever. Puligny is a quiet village at almost all times and to a casual observer all would appear sedate, almost serene, with its old stone buildings, an almost total absence of people and absolutely no traffic at all, but this belies the real work, of vital global importance, going on behind the scenes. The making of fine wines is entirely compatible with calmness and tranquillity.

The rooftops of Puligny - Click to enlarge Leaving Puligny, we decided to take our return route through the vines. It adds several minutes to the journey, but why does that matter? Being able to drive slowly through such stunning vineyard settings as these has never yet become boring and on this occasion it took us past the mediaeval village laundry which has been carefully restored. As we stepped out of the car it was chilly enough for us to think that doing the laundry out here must have been a very unpopular task.Mediaeval Laundry - Click to enlarge You might well have been able to exchange all sorts of juicy gossip while spending an hour or so elbow deep in cold running water and suds, but in winter you would return home chilled to the bone. The gossip would have had to have been jolly juicy to have tempted me to go down there in the middle of winter because, as it was, I put my hand it the water out of curiosity and am quite certain that some part of my anatomy would have dropped off if I had left it immersed for much longer. And this was April!

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